True Dedication

Tom Butts

When TV Technology advertised for a new technology editor nine years ago this month, we wanted not only someone who could bring the technical background to the job, but who shared our love for this industry and respect for the people who work behind the scenes to make broadcasting such an important part of our communities. Who we got had those qualities and so much more.

For many of us in broadcasting and related media, our jobs revolve around a 9–5 daily schedule, but for a dedicated few, it’s a 24 hours-a-day passion. James O’Neal, technology editor for TV Technology since 2005, is one of the dedicated few. It’s safe to say that, apart from his family, James’ main interest is in technology in general and the history and legacy of broadcasting in particular. James’ love for this industry is infectious and he never hesitates to share that passion with the rest of us, whether it’s debating when the first radio broadcast actually occurred (including debunking many of the myths surrounding the involvement of one Reginald Fessenden, who, in many circles, is still credited with the first voice and music broadcasts in history), or discussing the differences between HD and Ultra HD or how well the DTV transition was handled.

James’ articles on broadcast history in these pages often garnered the most reader response—and debates—in this magazine’s 35-year history. These included his account of the introduction of the first videotape recorder at the 1956 NAB Show, to a profile of Stanley Lebar, who developed the camera that documented the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the introduction of color television 60 years ago.

James gives a tour of his radio control room. But his interests don’t just lie in the legacy of broadcasting, either. James is active in most of the broadcast organizations, including SMPTE, SBE and IEEE-BTS, of which he is currently the newsletter editor. He has also built a fully operational radio station in the basement of his country home in central Virginia. In fact, James was profiled about his project several years ago, and you can catch the program at

After nine years as technology editor, James is stepping down from the post, but in some ways, it’s a mere formality. James will continue to write and contribute to TV Technology on a regular basis. After nearly 50 years in this business, he says it’s hard to completely step away. That suits us just fine because James is not only an integral member of the TV Technology team, he’s also a valued friend to us all.

I asked James to come up with a list of what he deems to be the five most important milestones in broadcast history. Here’s his list:

• Dec. 21, 1906 - Reginald Fessenden conducts first public demonstration of wireless speech and music transmission and provides attendees with a “handout” addressing broadcasting’s potential.

• Nov. 2, 1920 – KDKA broadcasts presidential election returns, stirring widespread public interest and setting the stage for radio’s entry into the home.

• Nov. 2, 1936 – BBC inaugurates world’s first regular TV broadcasting schedule.

• July 12, 1962 – First use of satellite technology (Telstar) to relay a transatlantic television broadcast.

• June 12, 2009 – The era of analog television ends in the United States, with all high-power stations required to transmit digitally.

Like so many lists of today, this is bound to lead to some debate. Do you agree or disagree with James’ assessment? Let us know!

We’ve also compiled a list of James’ most popular article on the history of broadcasting. You can access them at

Thank you, James for a job well done and best of luck in your (semi-) retirement!

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.